After Us review: Stunning visuals let down by lackluster gameplay

Jessica Filby
After us review

After Us is a touching and calming platform game that prides itself on its beautiful visuals and touching tale. However, it’s undercut by its lackluster gameplay and frustrating stability issues, forcing a world-saving narrative to be driven back underground.

Developed by Piccolo Studio and Private Division (publishers of The Outer Worlds and Kerbal Space Programme), After Us is a surrealist exploration platform game focusing on the impact humanity has left on the world and its inhabitants. Now it’s your job to help restore the spirits of those forced to leave the world they love and bring the overly-industrial planet back into the arms of Gaia.

It’s hard to deny that the story and background of After Us is vital, especially in the climate we find ourselves in – but rather than paint a dramatic painting of depravity, desire, and disaster, the title instead captures an unstable experience filled with much to be desired.

A beautiful contradiction

After Us Visuals

From the offset, the primary element that excited me was the art style. After Us seemingly takes inspiration from graphic-novel style games while also weaving in an element of softness, perfectly encapsulating the contrast between nature and the harsh design of the industrial invasion plaguing the world.

In the beginning, the game’s environments felt bare, but as you go through and unlock the spirits you must set free, the landscape quickly becomes filled with life. Such visuals landed fantastically and introduced a unique yet familiar story.

However, there were elements where the visuals faltered slightly, other than looking pretty, the spirits had no real purpose, with players only being able to pet them or sing to them. On top of that, I occasionally found the lighting a little frustrating to deal with, especially when entering darker buildings and finding it almost impossible to see.

Tricky movement and frustrating angles

After Us gameplay

After Us’ most redeeming quality was its visuals, but unfortunately, as far as gameplay goes, that’s where its redemption stops. From the moment you begin, it’s hard to ignore the odd camera design and movement. I often felt as if I were running a frame or two quicker than the animation which made it tricky to perfectly time certain jumps.

On top of this, the camera angle, which you can alter yourself, automatically placed me into tricky situations multiple times, with more than one angle obscuring my view when climbing a wall or jumping onto a platform.

That being said, the gameplay was still inviting, constantly introducing new abilities when you get used to the older ones and implementing combat to increase the number of fast-paced scenarios within the story. These elements kept the game moving forward and allowed for fresh designs when required.

There’s something missing

After Us abilities

Sure, the addition of multiple abilities and combat does help freshen the flow when it starts to falter, but After Us never really gets going.

The puzzles feel lackluster and often failed to provide the type of challenge I was looking for. Aside from the occasional jumping mishap or navigational puzzle, most were easily solved in under a minute and left me feeling like the game could have provided so much more.

On top of this, finding the spirits and using the heart to save them, fails to really prove its meaning. The quest never fully expands and it left me wondering if all I’d have to do was explore the level and find glowing orbs. Unfortunately, the gameplay felt slow, repetitive, and pretty unrewarding.

Disappointingly unstable

Sprinkled throughout the gameplay and visuals were a series of frustrating stutters and crashes. While it didn’t hinder the gameplay too much, since I often found myself at the worst a few steps back from where I was originally, it was undeniably frustrating and greatly hindered my experience with After Us.

The Verdict – 2/5

After Us has a vital subject matter that forces the player to take a step back and view the impact humanity has and will have on the world around them. However, with repetitive gameplay, a relatively unstable performance, and lackluster puzzles, the title fails to capture the brilliance its visuals portray.

Reviewed on PC.